LEARNING TO WALKEphesians 5:1-21
- This past week we got to watch our little granddaughter just learning to walk. In her strange new vertical world, she raises her arms above her head, takes one short step with her legs wobbling, then takes another shaky step, and then another, looking so surprised and pleased with herself. That's what walking is: a taking of step after step, making progress. We, of course, gave her a hand!
- Just as her walk identified her as a baby learning, a group's "walk" identifies it. Did you ever see Remember The Titans? It was the story of the football team of a newly integrated high school in Virginia in the early 1970s. With both kids and coaches from very different backgrounds forced together, facing the powerful stresses of society at the time and competing against other teams who were not dealing with the same challenges, the Titans had to figure some way to be a team. After a lack-luster performance or two, the boys came up with their own distinctive way of walking out to the field. They would chant, "Everywhere we go...people want to know...who we are...so we tell them...We are the Titans...the mighty, mighty Titans..." And, of course, the movie would show how the crowd and the other teams reacted to this unique march of the Titans.
- The family of God also has a distinctive walk - a way of life that identifies it as belonging to God and sets it apart from the ways of the world.
- In our text walk is used in a moral and ethical sense. It refers to a pattern of conduct and actions, what we might call a lifestyle.
- Walk reminds us that we are called to make daily progress along the road of life in the very real world, in the midst of society and not in isolation from it. The moral guidelines offered here "are constructed on the implied assumption that it is possible to live the full Christian life in the context of the world." (Martin)
- But, in the world, these Christian ethical standards are always under fire, and the threat of adopting a lower set of values and accepting a relaxed morality is always a clear and present danger.
- If we let that happen, we compromise our identity and fail to serve our purpose in a morally confused and hurting world.
- So the apostle, writing to Christians at Ephesus who had to live in an environment which was alien to God and hostile to his ways, teaches them how to walk so as to impact the world while safeguarding themselves.
- Walk in love which excludes lust, Ephesians 5:1-7.
- A Christian's daily progress along the road of life is to be characterized by love every step of the way. (v. 2)
- Our walk in love has to be shaped by the fact that we have been loved by the Christ who "gave himself up for us," and that we are loved by the Father who counts us "as beloved children," just as he said of his own Son at his baptism.
- To us, the defining act of love is the astonishingly unselfish sacrifice of Christ for us while we were not only undeserving but also enemies, and the amazing grace of the Father who regarded that event not as an insult but as a pleasing and acceptable offering which filled heaven with its fragrance.
- We can see that, having been given the unbelievable privilege of being his beloved, we should by all rights respond in showing self-forgetting kindness.
- That means, however, that selfish indulgence at the expense of others, even if it is called love, has no place in our lives. (v. 3-5)
- Exploitation to gratify selfish desires is not love; it is a contradiction of God's pattern of living.
- Notice the specific kinds of behavior which are perversions of love: sexual immorality...all impurity...covetousness...filthiness...foolish talk ...crude joking...They describe a way of life which turns people into sexual objects and makes something coarse and suggestive out of every thought, word, or movement. All life becomes a dirty joke.
- To self-centered "love," nothing is morally sensitive, no relationship is sacred or lasting, and no person is anything more than a thing to be used, depending on how self feels at the time. There is nothing noble or honorable about it.
- If we are to walk in love, the tone in our lives must be set by thanksgiving, not by selfishness. (v. 4)
- Gratitude is the foundation of Christian ethics. Our actions are to reflect deep thankfulness for the way we have been loved. Our thoughts and words are to be fashioned by appreciation for the unselfishness of God's gifts of love.
- Some things are not proper to even be named among thankful people. (v. 3) Behaviors which contradict that for which we are giving thanks are obviously out of place in our lives. We can be sure that there is no inheritance in the kingdom of the Lord for ways of life which discount his gift of himself. In fact, it's thankfulness itself which recognizes that without what he gave people continue as the sons of disobedience, still subject to the wrath of God.
- And, thankful people surely do not become partners with those who suggest that the very thing for which they are deeply thankful is meaningless! (v. 7)
Live like you are overwhelmingly thankful for the unselfish love which has been
extended to you.
- Walk in light which banishes darkness, Ephesians 5:8-14.
- The thinking in this part of the text grows out of the setting for the encouragement in verse 14 - the transitional event to which it refers.
- The ideas in these lines are certainly scriptural, and they are offered as a quote, but they are not from any one passage.
- Their poetical form has led many scholars to think these words may have been from an early Christian song, and the references to waking from sleep and rising from the dead and going out of darkness into light has led to the conclusion that it was sung at the occasion of baptism.
- Bob Hendren wrote, "What a beautiful sight it must have been to see a group of believers circle a pagan coming to faith in Christ. As he stood in the baptismal water, the group sang to him:...Rise, You who sleep and be raised from the dead, and upon you will shine the Christ...In a moment he was 'light in the Lord.'" (Chosen For Riches, p. 126)
- When the apostle tells his readers, then, to walk as children of light he is telling them to be what they are.
- He is lifting up before them the positive ambition of actually being light instead of merely passing along to them a bundle of rules to limit their involvement in deeds of darkness.
- Light is the spiritual force that produces all that is good and right and true. Being light means having character which is lovely, just and trustworthy. Barclay explained, "The light which Christ brings makes us useful and helpful citizens of this world; it makes us men and women who never fail in duty, human or divine; it makes us strong to do that which we know is true."
- If the fruit of light is what is good and right and true, it has to mean that all that is ugly or unfair or dishonorable has no place in our walk! As someone put it, "You can't grow sunflowers in the basement."
Light does some things because of what, by its nature, it is, so walking as children of light will have an impact.
- Light lets you see the way, so Christians put forth the thought and effort to discern what is pleasing to the Lord in all of our daily life and activity (v. 10). All our desires and our choices are to be governed by the decision we have already made to please him and not ourselves.
- Light exposes the darkness, so instead of becoming joint-participants in the unfruitful works of darkness, Christians expose their true nature, as well as the moral responsibility of those who do them (v. 11, 12). This we are to do not so much by speaking graphically on such works as by the reproving effect of a contrasting way of life. I like the story I've told some of you about a big young fellow who was an outstanding high school football player. He was also a very committed Christian young man. He was being interviewed and the reporter said, "You know you have the reputation of being a devout Christian. Isn't it hard to be that with all the peer pressure you face?" And he answered, "Ma'am, I am the peer pressure."
- Light makes visible, and Christians serve the purpose of making reality apparent (v. 13b, 14a). Lives which are full of what is good and right and true cast an illuminating beam into every corner of human society as if to say, "This is what's right...this is what's real...this is what's responsible." One writer observed, "Turning out the lights will not make what the light has revealed go away. In Louisiana, where our family lived for nearly seven years, we had trouble keeping large water bugs out of the house. We weren't lazy, we were clean, we sprayed. It's just that in South Louisiana these large roaches live outside and at night they sneak into your house to forage for goodies. You might enter your kitchen late at night with the lights off and think everything was nice and clean. One flip of the switch, though, revealed the presence of unwanted visitors. Turning off the lights did not make them go away, it just invited more in! The only way to get rid of them was to turn on the lights and go after them." (Hendren, p. 124) It's that way with moral problems, too.
Conduct yourself as a person who has the light of life in you!
- Walk in wisdom which corrects foolishness, Ephesians 5:15-21.
- The wisdom which is at stake in this part of our text in not intellectual ability but an attitude toward life.
- It's a way of life which begins with reverence for God and a steering away from all that displeases him. (Job 28:28; Prov. 9:10; etc.)
- It's an ability to see the difference between right and wrong, a habit of obedience to God's will in all circumstances, and a loyalty to his cause which overcomes problems.
- The foolish person, on the other hand, is not unintelligent. It's just that he has no strategy for living, no understanding of God's purposes for a person's life, and no respect for anything holy.
- The practice of wisdom in everyday conduct in the midst of a hostile society involves specific moral activities and choices.
- A wise person looks carefully how he is walking (v. 15). He keeps a close watch on the principles by which he is regulating his life. He does not wander aimlessly along in an ethical fog as if he were a piece of moral driftwood.
- A wise person makes the best use of his time (v. 16). Like an eager shopper snatching up a bargain, he is always on the alert for an opportunity to do good. He knows the world has its problems and he understands that it is the Lord's will for us to make a positive difference while we can. Someone said, "The enlightened Christian stands above the world-citizen, who spends his time trying to forget that he is spending his time."
- A wise person maintains self-control (v. 18). He does not get drunk or engage in any excess which leads to the loss of his moral awareness. He wants his conscience to remain vigilant so that no gateway is opened to immorality. So, instead of filling himself with something to make him think things are not as they are, he chooses to be filled with the Spirit.
- Being filled with the Spirit is not just a different way of being out of control. Rather than being in some mindless frenzy, it is being is being truly in your right mind, able to understand and do the will of the Lord (cf. v. 17). It means choosing to be under the Spirit's control by engaging in spiritual behavior.
- People who are filled with the Spirit make melody to the Lord with their hearts and speak to one another in spiritual songs to him. (v. 19)
- They give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (v. 20)
- And, those who are filled with the Spirit submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (v. 21)
Live a life which is dominated by the wisdom from above rather than by the folly of
- Walk in love which excludes lust. Walk in light which banishes darkness. Walk in wisdom which corrects folly....The tremendous blessing which this moral instruction is should not be overlooked, nor should its admonition be despised. People today, all of us, need to have some ethical advice clearly spelled out for us and set down in manageable and easily understood terms.
- It boils down to whose children we are. The "therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" applies to all three of these instructions. Christian ethics represent a positive ambition to be pleasing to a wise, pure and loving God whose character his children long to share. Who is your Father? Who are you trying to imitate?